Creamy lemon meringue pie with an easy homemade graham cracker crust. The simple filling features fresh lemon juice, lemon zest, and sweetened condensed milk for bright lemon flavor. Lemon meringue pie does not get easier than this!
Lemon Meringue Pie with Graham Cracker Crust: A Family Recipe
This lemon meringue pie is a humble, simple pie that packs a big flavor. This is a pie I grew up eating because my dad grew up eating it too. The recipe comes from his mom, my Granga, and it’s a winner every time.
My mom tells the story that early on when she and my dad were dating, he mentioned his love for lemon meringue pie. Being an accomplished baker herself (I come by it honestly), she decided to bake it for him. She hasn’t told me which recipe she used, but I’m guessing it’s something like this Betty Crocker classic.
Usually, lemon meringue pie has a rolled shortbread crust and a sweet, almost Jello-like lemon custard filling that you have to cook and temper eggs with and such. It’s time consuming and difficult. But, you know, she liked him.
So she went to all that effort and then he tasted it and he says: “it’s good, but not like my mom’s.”
Well. Needless to say, we had Granga’s recipe from then on. It’s insanely easy, and the results are delicious every time. Granga passed away when I was young, but I like to think that she’s smiling down on me every time I make this pie (and I think she’ll forgive me for tweaking it, just a little).
The photo above shows the sum total of ingredients required for this recipe. I didn’t lie when I said it was simple!
The big game changer in this pie is using sweetened condensed milk instead of cooking a custard. Is it going on be on the list of “healthiest superfoods” anytime soon? Nope. Is it completely delicious and fine to eat in small quantities once in a while? I say yes.
The other unusual aspect of this pie is the graham cracker crust. Granga’s recipe called for a store-bought crust (my mom always used those Keebler ones in the baking aisle growing up). But, you know me well enough by now to know that I’m going to make my own crust.
How to Make Homemade Graham Cracker Crust
Graham cracker crusts are a snap to make, and you have a few options depending on your preferences and time.
- You can crush graham crackers yourself in a bag or food processor (for this 9 inch lemon meringue pie recipe you’ll need one sleeve, which is 9 cracker sheets weighing 145 grams) or buy the pre-crushed crumbs.
- Mix with melted butter and a little sugar, brown and white sugar both work but I like the flavor of brown.
- Press the crumb mixture into the pie pan, pressing evenly on the bottom and up the sides. I use the bottom of a measuring cup or my hands to compact it.
- Then all you need to do is bake it for 10-12 minutes and it’ll be ready for filling!
Easy Sweetened Condensed Milk Filling
While the graham cracker crust is baking (seriously, it won’t take any longer than that) whip up the filling. You’ll need to separate the eggs into two large bowls – the yolks will be used in the filling and the whites in the meringue.
To make the filling, just whisk together the egg yolks, a can of sweetened condensed milk, lemon juice and zest. My tip: zest the lemons before you juice them! I use a microplane zester, which is one of the best tools you can have in the kitchen. It gets the zest off without the bitter pith underneath.
Once the graham cracker crust comes out of the oven, pour the filling in and return to the oven for 10 minutes so the egg yolks in the filling will cook and the filling will begin to set. Make your meringue while the filling is baking!
How to Make Meringue for Lemon Meringue Pie
Meringue seems scary to a lot of people, but it’s really a matter of patience. I use a hand mixer and a glass bowl. Just make sure your bowl and beaters are VERY clean for the easiest whip.
- Separate the eggs when they are still cold – they separate better that way. Make sure not to get any yolk in with the egg whites, or they won’t whip properly. I instruct you to separate the eggs at the beginning of the recipe because…
- Ideally the egg whites should be at room temperature when you beat them for meringue, as it makes them fluffier and they whip up faster.
- You want to beat the egg whites with a bit of cream of tartar, which helps to stabilize them, on medium speed until the egg whites have reached “soft peak” form. This takes 2-3 minutes. The egg whites will first get foamy and then start to develop some structure, and that’s when you have soft peaks when you pull the beaters out. See the photos below.
- Once you’ve reached soft peaks, gradually add the sugar with the mixer on and then increase to high speed until the meringue becomes very white and glossy, about 1-2 more minutes.
- You’re looking for the egg whites to reach “stiff peaks” form. All this means is that when you stop your mixer and pull the beaters out of the bowl, the impressions they make will stand up straight rather than falling over.
Here are the three stages of egg whites for meringue:
All that remains once you have your meringue is to:
- Spread that gorgeous meringue on top of the hot sweetened condensed milk filling,
- Bake it another 15-20 minutes (watch carefully to make sure it doesn’t burn),
- Chill for at least 2 hours in the fridge, until chilled; and
- Voila! Serve a super impressive pie.
I love the browned color the meringue gets. It’s so pretty!
I think this is a great dessert to make if you’re having people over. You can make it ahead (I’d recommend no earlier than 12 hours) and it looks so impressive. All your friends will think you’re a kitchen genius, and no one has to know just how easy it really is.
All part of the plan.
More Lemon Recipes:
- Single Layer Lemon Cake with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting
- Lemon Ricotta Pancakes with Blackberry Sauce
- One Pan Lemon Thyme Roasted Chicken Thighs
If you make this lemon meringue pie with graham cracker crust, please leave a star rating and review; it helps others find and make the recipe and is so appreciated! Also feel free to take me on Instagram @katiebirdbakes – I love to see your bakes!
Lemon Meringue Pie with Graham Cracker Crust
- 1 9-inch pie plate
For the Graham Cracker Crust:
- 1 sleeve (145g or 9 sheets) graham crackers (or about 1 and 1/2 cups of crumbs)
- 6 Tablespoons (84g) unsalted butter, melted
- 2 Tablespoons (25g) brown sugar
- Pinch of salt
For the Creamy Lemon Filling:
- 3 large egg yolks (you’ll use the whites for the meringue)
- 1 14-oz can sweetened condensed milk (full fat highly recommended)
- 1/2 cup (118 ml) lemon juice (from about 3 medium lemons)
- Zest of the 3 medium lemons*
For the Meringue:
- 3 large egg whites (same eggs as the yolks used for the filling)
- 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 1/4 cup (50g) granulated sugar
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Separate the eggs into two large bowls. This will allow the egg whites to come to room temperature before you beat them into meringue – they will whip faster and fluffier at room temperature! Set both bowls aside while you make the crust.
- Make the crust: Crush the graham crackers to fine crumbs, either by hand in a bag with a rolling pin or hammer, or in a food processor. Alternatively, you can buy pre-made graham cracker crumbs. Place graham cracker crumbs, melted butter, brown sugar, and salt in a medium bowl and stir until fully combined. Press mixture evenly into a 9-inch pie pan, spreading it up the sides as well. I use my hands and then the bottom of a measuring cup to make sure it's really compacted.
- Bake the crust for 12 minutes, until golden brown and smelling delicious.
- Make the filling: While crust is baking, in a large bowl, beat together egg yolks, condensed milk, lemon juice and lemon zest until creamy and completely smooth. I do this with a whisk or a fork, but you could do it with a mixer too.
- Bake the filling: Pour filling mixture into the hot or room temperature baked crust and smooth out with a spatula. Bake for 10 minutes. This will cook the egg yolks and help set the filling before you add the meringue.
- Make the meringue: While the filling is baking, beat egg whites and cream of tartar together with a hand mixer (or the whisk attachment on a stand mixer) on medium speed until soft peaks form, 2-3 minutes. Gradually add sugar while continuing to beat at medium-high speed, until stiff peaks form and mixture becomes white and glossy, another 1-2 minutes.
- Bake the meringue: Carefully spread meringue evenly on top of the hot baked filling. Spread the meringue to the edge of the pie to seal and make sure there are no holes or gaps; this helps keep it from shrinking and separating while baking. Bake the pie for 15-20 minutes, or until the meringue is golden brown to your liking.
- Cool completely before serving – this pie is best served chilled, at least 2 hours in the fridge. Keep leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 3 days (though it is best on the day it's made).
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Wellllll I did bake a pie!! Lol
The filling was beautiful but my pitiful meringue!! None of this was your fault- it’s all on me! My meringue never got stiff peaks!! I hope this will be good- I poured it on top of the filling and browned my little meringue and put it in the fridge- the pie shell was a graham cracker one.. hopefully it can still be eaten after it cools? I’m worried about those eggs! I put my pie in the AF on bro I so it only took a couple of minutes to brown.. should I just scrap my pie?
Oh no, I’m sorry your meringue wasn’t as great as you’d hoped…I think it would be ok in the air fryer but definitely recommend using the conventional oven next time so the eggs have more time to cook!
Love the recipe, however, my filing was runny. How do I prevent that from happening? I want the filing to be solid. Not sure what I did wrong.
Hi Sharon – I’ve never had an issue with the filling being runny. Are you sure you used all the correct ingredients and chilled the pie fully? I find it needs several hours in the fridge to fully chill. Hope that helps!
Mine was also runny, and it was like simple syrup. I think 1/3 cup of sugar in the meringue is way too much. It seemed that the sugar “fell out” of the meringue and sat as a syrup in between the meringue and the filling. I also thought adding sugar to the graham cracker crust was unnecessary. Overall the pie was too sweet. I’m sure it would be fine without sugar in the crust and very little if any in the meringue.
Thanks for the feedback, Annika! I don’t think I’ve ever had that issue, but will try it again soon and see if I can refine the recipe.
This is a popular dessert in Australia, I use this recipe a lot especially if I can’t be bothered making a pastry base. I think your egg whites weren’t beaten enough. When whipping rub them between your fingertips to check no graininess. Then top pie as usual. Good luck next time 😊🇦🇺
Thank you for the helpful tip Sandra!
Love the taste of the recipe but mine also turned out runny. Next time, I will try to spread the meringue on warm to hot filling and bake it at 425F for 4-5mins. I’ve learned this on my review for dietitians exams, and one of the subjects was food science.
Hmm interesting, thank you for the tip. I will do some experimenting with that method! Sorry that it turned out runny for you, I have never had that issue. I find making sure the pie is fully chilled before serving helps.
I realize this is an old post; I kind of stumbled upon it and after reading your story about your parents dating and the lemon meringue pie, I just had to comment.
My dad’s favorite dessert was lemon meringue pie, and like your father, he loved the variety made with your recipe. One night, when I was a child, I stayed home with a babysitter while my parents went out with another couple. Apparently, at some point during the evening, my dad mentioned lemon meringue pie was his favorite dessert.
A couple months later, my parents went to dinner at this couple’s home, and remembering what my dad had said, the wife made a lemon meringue pie for dessert – except it was the “standard” variety; flour pastry crust and lemon custard filling.
My father ate a piece (he was polite!) but mentioned multiple times over the next few days how “tasteless” it was and how my mom’s recipe was just SO superior!
I was brought up on this pie, and I have to agree; I think the graham cracker crust compliments the filling much better, and IMO, the filling has a lot more lemon flavor than the custard type.
Seeing this post got me thinking how yummy this would be (and cute!) if I could make individual lemon meringue mini pies in a muffin pan. But I can’t quite work out what I can use to make the sides of the crusts in the wells of a muffin pan (and I don’t want to have the crust just on the bottom).
Wow, thank you so much for the thoughtful comment! I love that your dad had the same reaction to “normal” lemon meringue pie. My dad will laugh when I tell him! I think you could make this in a muffin tin – just pack the crumb base tightly on the bottom and halfway up the sides of each muffin cup. Then I’d bake for 8-10 minutes, then fill each cup with the filling and top with the meringue, and bake for 10-12 minutes until the meringue is browned. It may be a little messy to get them out but it’s worth a shot! You can also buy mini tart pans and try making them in there. They have removable bottoms which would make it easier to get out. Let me know if you try it!
I am worried about not cooking the eggs. Do the yolks get hot enough when baked in a pie for 15 minutes? The addition of sweetened condensed milk in a lemon pie sounds so good!
Hi Nancy – I have not had any issue with the eggs not being cooked when making this pie over the years!
Can you bake your crust,if it’s a store bought cramb cracker crust for your lemon ice box pie.
Hi Edna, if you’re using a store bought graham cracker crust, no need to pre-bake it – just fill with the lemon filling, top with the meringue, and bake!
My concern is about the egg yolks not being cooked. I hope you can help me think through this.
Hi Barbara – the yolks get cooked when the pie is baked! You bake the filling and meringue at the same time. Let me know if you have any other questions!
Thanks for reminding me of Anne.
Anne would love your modifications …. When she showed me how to make it (I was about 10). We made a home made graham cracker crust. It was very much like what you shared. And we used the juice of two fresh lemons. So, same modification.
So your Granga would be very proud of you indeed. For this recipe you shared with everyone and for the wonderful and accomplished young woman that you are.
Hi Aunt Deb! Thanks so much for your kind words. I love the recipe and hope others will try and love it too in her memory!